High Altitude Meets Low Tech

September 7, 2005

Portable HypoxicatorI have been spending lots of time thinking about how I’ll get some more altitude to be better prepared for Kilimanjaro. When we get to Panama (just one week away!) we are going to hike the Baru Volcano (3,478 meters / 11,410 feet). But if you can’t take Mohammed to the mountain, you can get Mohammed a portable hypoxicator. A hypoxicator is a fancy machine that simulates high altitude (low oxygen) conditions. This is a fine solution for anybody wishing to spend $1,299 and carry around 15.5 lbs. I am willing to do neither, but what if there was a way to do the same thing with a tool found for free at many restaurants, which weighs less than a gram?

Sean Burch, an adventure racer, ran from the base of Mt Kilimanjaro to the summit, a climb that will if I am lucky take me six days, in less than 5 and a half hours. What was the high tech equipment that he used to train? A straw! From the Ithaca Journal:

He trained for the North Pole Marathon solely on a treadmill, and he must have looked downright peculiar during his training sessions for Kilimanjaro: 30-minute stints on a Stairmaster with his nose pinched while breathing through a straw in his mouth.

Thanks to MtKilimanjaro.org for the story.


  1. I was just thinking there must be an easy low tech solution for this, but safer than running on the treadmill with a plastic bag on your head. The straw sounds like it’d work well!

    Comment by John — September 8, 2005 @ 9:00 am

  2. Try alternate breathing exercises taught in Hatha Yoga. Its good for meditating as well. Controling the breath of life is no easy accomplishment. Alternate breathing, at its basic form, involves breathing one nostril at a time. oh yeah, you can do this siting down.

    Comment by chibag — September 11, 2005 @ 6:19 am

  3. If you are looking for hypoxic training in the future, it’s pretty easy to do in a swimming pool - just swim as per usual but breathe less often!

    Comment by Dan — October 14, 2005 @ 6:15 pm

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